We spent the first half of our day cruising the Bosphorus Strait. The Bosphorus Strait separates the European side of Turkey and the Asian side of Turkey. It also connects the Black Sea in the north with the Sea of Marmara and the Mediterranean in the south. We took the cruise on the public ferry which leaves from the Bosphorus ferry port in Old Town’s Eminonu district next to the Galata Bridge. A round trip ticket was 25 TL and the ferry leaves the port at 10:35 and 13:35 in April-October (at 10:35 only the rest of the year). The round trip took about 6-7 hours, including a 2-3 hour stop in Anadolu Kavagi. We left at 10:35 which was perfect because we arrived in Anadolu Kavagi in time for lunch and had some time to walk around and explore and still managed to get in some more sightseeing in Istanbul when we returned. We arrived early so that we could get a good seat for optimal viewing. Most of the sights on the way to Anadolu Kavagi are on the European side, so we chose a seat on the left so we could see everything. The ferry did not include a tour, so we read the Bosphorus Cruise chapter of Rick Steve’s Istanbul beforehand so we were prepared.
On the Bosphorus Ferry
As the ferry pulled away from the port, we had a great view of Old Town Istanbul behind us with a view of the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace. After that, we saw where the Bosphorus joins the Sea of Marmara on the right. Offshore on the right is the Maiden’s Tower, which is a landmark used as a lighthouse and restaurant. Next on the left, we saw the Dolmabahce Palace, which is the 19th century palace of the Ottoman sultan. Then the ferry slows down for it’s first stop at Besiktas. Then we saw a very grand Four Seasons Hotel followed by Ciragan Palace, which is now a five star hotel.
Ciragan Palace (now a hotel)
Later on the left before the Bosphorus Bridge is Ortakoy Mosque and right next to the mosque is a 19th century mansion, Esma Sultan Yalisi, which once belonged to the sultan’s daughter. Next is the impressive Bosphorus Bridge, which connects two continents. Just to the left of the bridge is Beylerbeyi, which is the late 19th century summer palace of the sultan. On the Asian side, we saw several waterfront mansions. It must be amazing to live in one of those beautiful mansions right on the beautiful Bosphorus! Also on the Asian side was Kucuksu, which was a hunting pavilion for the royals. Following that is Anatolian Fortress, which was used to cut off aide to Constantinople during a seize.
Next on the European side, is the very impressive Rumeli Fortress. It was built a year before the conquest of Constantinople and it was constructed in only 80 days! It was crucial for the Ottomans to have fortresses on both sides of the Bosphorus so that it was impossible for a ship to pass through without permission. Next is the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge before stopping in Kanlica. Kanlica is known for it’s yogurt served with powdered sugar, which servers sold on the ferry and was quite tasty.
Next the ferry docks at Yenikoy, which is a trendy district with elaborate houses. Next on the left side is the Presidential Mansion, which is the summer home for the President of Turkey. Next the ferry stops in Sariyer before arriving at Rumeli Kavagi. As the ferry leaves Rumeli Kavagi, the ferry turns toward Asia and we could see the Bosphorus opening into the Black Sea. The tale of Jason and the Argonauts and the rocks the crew encountered is believed to have occurred on this stretch of the Bosphorus approaching the Black Sea.
Bosphorus opening into the Black Sea
he ferry docked in Anadolu Kavagi, which is a small fishing village on the Asian side of Turkey. We were able to see Yoros Castle up on the hilltop as we approached the port. The ferry stopped here for 2-3 hours, so we were able to enjoy a delicious seafood lunch on the water before hiking uphill to Yoros Castle. There are several seafood restaurants along the water and we looked at a few menus and then chose one that had seating by the water. Then we boarded the ferry to head back to Old Town.
Seafood lunch of mussels, calamari, fried white fish and also a whole fish (not pictured)
After we arrived back, we walked across the Galata Bridge and watched some of the fishermen catch fish on the bridge and then crossed the bridge to explore New Town. We browsed around a few shops before going to the Galata Tower, which is a 205 foot stone tower built in the mid-14th century and has since been used as a fire tower, barracks and dungeon. For 10 TL, we were able to ride to the top and enjoy a great view of Istanbul. The Galata Tower is open daily from 9:00-20:00.
View of Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque from Galata Tower
Then we walked back to Old Town and decided to try one of the self-service cafeteria style restaurants for dinner. We chose one located along the tram tracks (Divan Yolu) and this may have been my favorite meal in Istanbul. I had stuffed peppers and stuffed eggplant and everything tasted fresh and delicious and it was inexpensive.
Stuffed eggplant and stuffed peppers with rice
Since this was our last night in Istanbul, we wanted to soak up as much of Istanbul as we could. We walked around the Old Town near the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque while snacking on some chestnuts purchased from street vendors and then we decided to go to Havuzbasi Restaurant and Tea House near the Blue Mosque and sit out on the patio for hookahs, Turkish coffee and tea and a game of backgammon. It was my first time smoking hookah, which is a water pipe with low nicotine tobacco leaves mixed with dried apples. I could definitely taste aroma of apples and it was fun to sit outside below the Blue Mosque and just relax with my husband.
It was a perfect last evening in Istanbul and we were sad to be leaving the next day, but not until we saw Topkapi Palace in the morning!